Optional Practical Training for F-1 students

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is meant to give F-1 students practical experience in their major field of study, and students can apply for it either during their program of study or after graduation. OPT generally lasts up to 12 months.

Before you can participate in OPT, you'll need to get approval from US Citizenship and Immigration Services, which usually takes around 90 days, but processing times may vary, so students should plan ahead.

You do not need to have a job offer when you apply, but you are required to begin working on post-completion OPT within 90 days of the start date on your OPT EAD card in order to maintain valid F-1 status.

When classes are in session, OPT can only be part-time, up to 20 hours per week. It can be full-time during the summer and other breaks.

Post-completion OPT is full-time (more than 20 hours per week). You can work with multiple organizations, as long as each position is directly related to your major field of study.

If you are considering an unpaid internship or position, you may do so during the regular post-completion OPT period, but you should get written verification that your position does not violate any local, state, and federal labor laws from an HR representative at your organization. Financial compensation is not the only indicator of employment.  

Workshops

Before you apply for OPT, you are required to participate in an OPT workshop. You may register to take this workshop:

  • Online: request access to the online workshop via the "Online OPT Workshop Access Request" e-form in ISSS Link under F-1 Practical Training (Note: the online workshop includes an assessment for which you must pass with a score of 80% or higher. Be sure to answer each question throughout the workshop); or
  • In-person: sign up for one of the in-person sessions below.

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Eligibility

You can apply for OPT if:

  • You currently hold F-1 status
  • You have finished at least one academic year as a full-time student at a US institution
  • You have not participated in full-time CPT for 12 months or more at your degree level

If you re-enter the US using a new SEVIS record after your previous record was terminated, you need to complete another academic year of full-time study before you can apply for OPT.

How to apply

  1. Sign up for and participate in an OPT workshop.
  • If you attend an in-person workshop, you will be sent an email containing the link to the OPT request e-form which you will complete in ISSS Link.
  • If you participate in the on-line workshop, you will be emailed the link to the OPT request e-form within 2 business days of passing the OPT assessment with a score of 80% or higher.

  1. Fill out an I-765 form. ISSS step-by-step I-765 instructions >>>
  2. Complete the OPT Request e-form in ISSS Link which will require you to select pre-completion or post-completion OPT.
  • If you are requesting post-completion OPT, the e-form will ask you to provide the name and email of your academic advisor who will receive an automatic email directing them to ISSS Link to complete part two of the OPT request. Once the student and academic advisor portions of the e-form are submitted, your OPT request is considered complete.  
  • If you are requesting pre-completion your request is considered complete once your portion of the e-form is submitted.  

  1. Receive an email from ISSS instructing you to pick up the OPT I-20 and ship your OPT application to USCIS. You will receive the email within five business days of ISSS receiving a complete request.
  2. Ship your OPT application to USCIS and confirm delivery.
  3. Wait for the OPT receipt notice and employment authorization document (EAD). If you used the ISSS mailing address on your I-765, we will let you know when your receipt notice and new employment authorization document (EAD) arrives. The receipt typically arrives within 3–4 weeks. Although processing times can vary widely, it typically takes USCIS 90 to 100 days to process your request. Plan accordingly!

PhD students

If you will finish your dissertation mid-semester, you may want to apply for post-completion OPT before you officially graduate. If you are interested in this option, please discuss your plans with your ISSS advisor 3–4 months ahead of time.

Document checklist

The following is an abridged version of the OPT checklist. The ISSS OPT Application Document Checklist includes a detailed list.

  1. Original, typed I-765 form signed in blue pen. ISSS step-by-step I-765 instructions >>>
  2. Copies of all previously issued I-20s, including the new OPT I-20 and any I-20 issued by other another institution (if applicable)
  3. Copy of any previous EAD cards
  4. Copy of the ID page of your passport, plus any extension pages
  5. Copy of your current visa (if you have one)
  6. Copy of your most recent I-94
  7. OPT fee paid by personal check, cashier's checks, money order or credit card. For the most up to date fee amount, visit the USCIS website (NOTE: Biometrics fee is not required)
  8. 2 passport-style photos – photo requirements >>
  9. Form G-1145 (optional, but recommended)

Reporting requirements

During post-completion OPT, you'll need to report:

  1. Any change to your non-immigrant status within 10 days by emailing isss@emory.edu
  2. Any change to your legal name within 10 days by emailing isss@emory.edu
  3. Change of your address within 10 days by logging in to ISSS Link and filling out the “Update Current OPT Employer e-form”
  4. Change of employer or work address, including end of employment, within 10 days by logging in to ISSS Link and filling out the “Update Current OPT Employer e-form”

Extensions

STEM OPT extension

If you have a degree in a STEM field and you are currently in a period of post-completion OPT, you can apply for an extension. Learn more >>


Cap-gap extension

If you are on post-completion OPT and your employer has filed an H-1B petition on your behalf, a cap-gap extension would allow you to stay in the US during the gap between the end of OPT and the beginning of your H-1B status. Learn more >>